Sunday, March 14, 2010

The text is on the wall

“Guess how many text messages went through my daughter’s cell phone last month,” our friend Judi said over lunch recently.

You have to be careful when somebody asks you to guess how many. The correct answer must be wacky or they wouldn’t be asking, but you don’t want to steal any thunder by overshooting. That’s why I always guess fifteen, no matter what the question.

“Fifteen,” I guessed.

Honestly, I have grown so cynical and jaded in my ever-advancing thirty-two years that I thought nothing could amaze me anymore, except maybe the movie Avatar, and also people who think that snow in the Northeast disproves global warming.

Judi set down her drink and said, “Eight thousand.”

I wish I’d been drinking milk at that moment so that I could have sprayed it out of my nose in a great white plume, which would have been the only appropriate reaction.

Eight thousand text messages in one month, assuming 31 days to a month and 16 hours of consciousness per day, and not subtracting the hours the average teen spends daydreaming about vampires or the Jonas Brothers, equals one text every 3.72 waking minutes, though you might want to run those numbers past someone who uses math for something other than tips.

On my texting plan, Judi’s daughter would have rung up $1,600 in charges in that month. I’m on the “Either You’re Old or You Have No Friends, or Possibly Both,” plan, which charges twenty cents for a text message, and a buck or two if someone sends a picture.

“Aw, dude, I-Ball just texted a picture of his kid dressed like a Nittany Lion,” I’ll say.

“What? It’s cute,” my wife Kara will reply.

“You know what would be cuter? Not paying two bucks to look at it,” I’ll reply, then immediately I’ll feel like an old crank railing against technology, probably the same way my grandfather would have complained about color TV or microwave ovens. It’s just a shame nobody’s invented a way to attach a picture to an email so that I could see I-ball’s kids for free.

When a friend looked at my phone recently, she said, “Wow, that doesn’t have a keyboard on it? I didn’t think they still made those.”

It’s true that my phone is technologically ancient, having been purchased nearly two entire years ago, but there was a time when all phones just had numbers on them. You only used those little letters above the numbers to dial 1-800-MATTRES, or, if you were twelve, to make crank calls to 459-HUMP.

I’ve gotten so old, I can remember when “text” was a noun. And also when Geraldo Rivera got hit in the face with a chair. That was really big news back then. These days, I feel like Geraldo could get hit in the face with a sleeper sofa and nobody would care.

I’ve always held out hope that I might be the first cool adult in history, but now I understand why so many countless millions have failed before me. Just when you start to believe that teenagers might think you’re cool because you still say the word “dude” without irony, they go and develop a new language, one that is spoken entirely with their thumbs.

“It’s just how they communicate now,” Judi told Kara and me as our mouths hung open, occasionally forming the words “eight thousand” silently. Judi was like Jane Goodall, explaining apes to people who would never understand without living in the jungle themselves. Fortunately, our son Evan isn’t a year old yet, so even though he’d be obsolete if he were a cell phone, our family won’t be moving to the jungle for about twelve more years.

You can send text messages via email to Mike Todd at


  1. You and Gary can commiserate on unwanted texts! Watch out for the furry if he gets a text from me - where we pay to send and receive it :-)

  2. A photograph of Geraldo being hit by that sofa-bed would be worth $8,000 but that amount for texting??? No wonder parents of teens look even more crazed than usual, these days.

  3. I don't need no microwave, I don't need no color TV.

    Only because it pertains specifically and coincidentally to this post, I will shameless plug my blog:

  4. May you all enjoy all of God's blessings, and lots of fun, this fine St Patrick's Day!

  5. Jen -- Gary's as cheap as me? That is awesome. I'll have to text him some congratulations from Kara's phone.

    Loon -- They do look pretty crazed, don't they? And Happy Belated St. Patty's to you, too. I hope your Guiness hasn't gone flat yet.

    JP -- Fine job of blog pimping. You owe me a nickel for everyone who clicked that link.

  6. Dude, seriously I get lots and lots of iball's kiddie pics. He's into that like a mofo. I used to always write back some cute little thing, or "that's funny" Lately that changed to "neat" and then the last one I ever wrote back was "Awww" at that I was done writing back. I had become a 15 year old girl texting "Awww" to my boy. Great post by the way. Natalie had to tell me to be quiet so our upstairs neighbor would not get mad because i was LOL !